LINCOLN LAWYER, THE
Defence attorney Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) has finely honed street smarts as he works from the backseat of his chauffeur driven Lincoln Continental sedan by hustling and defending criminals. Although divorced from prosecuting attorney Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), they still have a good relationship and Mick happily spends his spare time with his young daughter. When recommended by bond bailsman Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) to defend rich Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) for attempting to murder prostitute Reggie Campo (Margarita Levieva), Mick takes the case, thinking it will provide quick, easy money. But as he and his investigator colleague Frank Levin (William H. Macy) start working on the case, Mick finds it's not at all as he had expected.
Review by Louise Keller:
Not since John Grisham's The Firm has there been such a stylish lawyer tale as this. Based on a bestseller by Michael Connelly and adapted by John Romano, the best thing about this thriller, murder mystery and courtroom drama is the surprise element and that we have no idea where it is going to lead. In fact it is every bit as clever as its super smart protagonist lawyer in that we switch allegiances as the story unfolds. It's a bit like a chess game in which the stakes rise with each move.
Defence attorney Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) has finely honed street smarts as he works from the backseat of his black, chauffeur driven Lincoln Continental sedan (numberplate NTGuilty), hustling and defending petty crims. His clients are bikies, drug dealers, prostitutes and those from the grey part of town. He is partial to taking a bribe and as he makes questionable deals and uses his manipulative skills, we can see he is used to doing business on his own terms. Wheeling and dealing is his game and he is good at it, flaunting his cocky demeanour even when the most intimidating Hell's Angels are in pursuit. It is easy to dislike him on the spot.
Enter Ryan Phillippe as Louis Roulet, the doe-eyed pretty boy from the rich end of town, who is accused of seriously beating up a prostitute. Innocent, he claims convincingly in a softly spoken voice. Mick has been recommended by the bond bailsman Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) and happily takes the case in the blink of an eye. Easy money he thinks, but soon knows otherwise as he and his investigator colleague Frank Levin (Willliam H. Macy) start digging up dirt as they begin working on the case. Sex, lies and videotape are exposed as they find that Roulet is far from the innocent he professes to be.
Secrets spill, former clients come into the spotlight and we discover that hidden under Mick's sleazy street-smart style and bluster hides a conscience. His greatest fear is not to recognise innocence. He remembers what his father told him: There's no client as innocent as an innocent client. The truth blurs as we see two versions of events.
Macy is great as the shrewd, long-haired investigator who has his own unusual methods to procure information and Michael Pena makes his scenes count as the crim doing time for a crime he didn't commit. Frances Fisher is well cast too as Roulet's Beverly Hills immaculately groomed socialite mother who sells expensive real estate and who is used to buying what she wants. Phillippe ably turns the charm on and off at will, just like a light switch, making Roulet a formidable, unpredictable and dangerous opponent.
Although divorced from prosecuting attorney Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), they still have a good and easy relationship with Mick happily spending his spare time with his young daughter. It is easy to believe that Maggie is still bewitched by Mick's charms.
Tomei projects such warmth as Mick's prosecuting attorney ex-wife who makes their on-off relationship credible but it's McConaughey who runs away with the film. With disarming ease, he manipulates us as easily as he manipulates his clients. It is credit to McConaughey that we are rooting for him wholeheartedly by the middle of the film. Everyone we meet along the way has relevance. Why was Mick hired? What about Mr Blue Mustang? Who is lying? How can Mick keep both his reputation intact and his conscience clean?
This is a great yarn filled with twists, turns, surprises and colourful characters that are anything but black and white.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One of the notable pleasures of The Lincoln Lawyer is the life-like contradictions in Mick Haller's (Matthew McConaughey) character. The well observed script has Mick happily defending criminals but scared of having an innocent person wrongly jailed. This becomes a motivating force when he learns during the preparation of his case in defence of Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) that an error of judgement had sent a client to jail - albeit not to Death Row.
Mick is also contradictory about justice itself: he has an angry exchange with one cop about a client who had murdered his wife and the District Attorney had tried to pin two unsolved murders on him. That's not how the justice system works, he says icily. Yet he is perfectly capable of manipulating evidence and people if it suits him.
In his private life, too, Mick is unpredictable: he's separated from his wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei), a prosecuting attorney, but close and friendly with her and their daughter. No clichees here.
All these character contradictions make Mick a real person - and one with whom we empathise, as he is dragged into a case full of twists and turns. McConaughey is terrific in the role, always credible, balanced and intelligent; he's likeable even when he's had too much to drink.
Tomei is terrific as Maggie, warm and strong and decent but never a pushover. Ryan Phillippe brings his edginess to the role of Louis, a reminder what a sharp actor he is. Not that we see him acting. William H. Macy is memorable with a long hair look as Mick's investigator and we don't see enough of him. Likewise effective is John Leguizamo as the bail bondsman who plays a key role, a small role that Leguizamo manages to enlarge with great delivery and presence.
Margarita Levieva has one big scene in the courtroom and she nails it, while Frances Fisher is icily brilliant as Mary Windsor, Louis' protective and dangerous wealthy mother.
The plot details are ingeniously handled and structured, the rhythm of the film is just right and the tone is pitch perfect: light and serious when needed, but never heavy, even when the themes darken. Just what an escapist thriller should be.
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LINCOLN LAWYER, THE (M)
CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Frances Fisher, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton,
PRODUCER: Sidney Kimmel, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Scott Steindorff, Richard S. Wright
DIRECTOR: Brad Furman
SCRIPT: John Romano, (novel by Michael Connelly)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lukas Ettlin
EDITOR: Jeff McEvoy
MUSIC: Cliff Martinez
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charisse Cardenas
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 31, 2011